Whose Body Is It Anyway?Apr 29, 2018
I don’t think we are prepared as women for the toll of motherhood on our bodies. You know you’ll get fat during the pregnancy and your nipples will get sore when you breastfeed but there aren’t details. I could have never anticipated the many changes to come.
As soon as my daughter was born, my previously swollen belly collapsed. It was deep purple and all wrinkly. I was devastated. I looked like I had a huge, squashed raisin on my belly. I worried that this was my new belly, permanently. Luckily, the colour faded within 24 hours and the mass of belly skin eventually smoothed out but, to this day, my belly button is stretched beyond repair. My daughters laugh at it. It looks like it’s yawning at all times.
I had heard all about the dreaded stretch marks. I didn’t get stretch marks which surprised me because my body had been stretched to its limits. I figured maybe it had to do with the pigment in my skin. I had no explanation but I just felt grateful. Until, one day, as I was heading into the shower, I turned to get a new bar of soap and then… I saw them. The stretch marks were on my butt! I never looked back there. It didn’t occur to me to inspect my bottom but there they were-little silvery lines and grooves on the outer sides of my posterior. Damn it!
The third degree tearing meant I had a lot of stitches. It was surreal, watching the doctor stitch me for an hour. I couldn’t feel anything but I could see everything. After the birth, my insides changed. When I pooped, I had to push the poo up then over a bump and back down again. This took some getting used to. The very first time I pooped, I called out to my husband in a panic. I thought for sure I was going to split open. The pressure I felt was just like giving birth. I didn’t think the stitches would hold out. I remember holding onto the sink to my right and the wall to my left, pushing and hesitating at the same time, worried that I would end up in the emergency room. It was so scary. I had never heard anyone mention this before but I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I couldn’t feel the area above my knees for over a year after the birth. I asked my doctor about it. I wondered if it might be from the epidural. I was holding my knees into my chest when I received the epidural. She assured me that the epidural couldn’t cause this symptom. When I returned to college, I was teaching a leadership course. Students had to organize tournaments and I graded them and, sometimes participated in them. One student, a cocky young man, challenged me to a friendly competition. I accepted. We both had to stand with our legs bent, 90 degrees, our backs against the wall. Whoever stayed in this position the longest won. I never told him that I couldn’t feel that area above my knees, the one that was trembling with effort on his legs. Haha! Needless to say, I won the competition. As I interviewed other moms for my book, many of them suffered nerve damage and never regained feeling in their legs so it is possible that the epidural was to blame.
My husband and I went to Alexander Bay, New York for our anniversary. We had a beautiful day together, very romantic. I was wearing a long flowing skirt, feeling very feminine. We had lunch on a patio on the water and we’d just visited a vintage boat museum. We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves as we strolled back to the car. When, suddenly, I felt warmth and wetness running down my legs and it dawned on me that I was peeing without my consent. I told my husband that I had just peed onto the sidewalk, like Anne in Little Britain’s skit. I was shocked and embarrassed. I didn’t want to sit in the car like this so we had to buy some souvenirs to change into. It never happened again thank goodness but I will never forget the feeling.
There is a myth that you won’t get your period and you can’t get pregnant if you are breastfeeding. This is absolutely false. My period had resumed within thirty days of childbirth. I was one disappointed camper. I have talked to many moms who got pregnant within a few months of giving birth and they were breastfeeding.
Next, nipples. My nipples stuck out like thumb tacks when I was breastfeeding. I wondered if they would stay like this. I remember one day in the shower. I reached up for the soap and my nipples folded upwards. I was convinced I had breast cancer and had months to live but, nope, just breastfeeding nipples. When in doubt, ask another mom.
I was able to walk off my baby fat with my first daughter. It wasn’t as easy with my second. Why am I sharing all of this information? I want any mom who reads this to know that this is normal. When you don’t know, you worry, you keep it to yourself. These are some of the changes that happened to my body after I had my daughter. If you went through, or are going through, any of these changes, I hope that reading this helps to normalize these temporary changes for you.